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Bionics - An Insight into its Future

Future of Bionics

Supplier of industrial products, RS component through its survey has affirmed that medical equipment will be used in the future of our bodies.

It describes how recent developments such as, the thought-controlled robotic leg built at the centre of Bionic Medicine, together with SynCardia's battery-powered hearts, pave the way for future predictions in MedTech.

The survey also predicts that by 2035, with sensors that track more signals like radio waves and Xrays, we may be able to upgrade our senses, potentially allowing blind people to ultrasonically walkabout.

By 2050 we may even be able to create exact replicas of the human brain, according to Dr Ian Pearson, who equates it to "having a copy of oneself."

Closer to the present are artificial pancreases that can monitor the blood sugar of a person and adjust the insulin level automatically to meet the needs of their body. With models made by companies such as Medtronic and academic institutes such as Cambridge University, these devices are becoming more common.

Some of the areas where the Bionics technology is likely to grow are listed as follows:

1. Vision Bionics

The bionic eye—or visual neuroprosthesis, is technology implants that restore functional vision to people with partial or total blindness.

Scientists and device manufacturers designing bionic eyes face two major challenges: the difficulty of imitating retinal function and the desire (and constraint) of customers for miniature devices that can be inserted into the eye.

Despite these challenges, the vision bionics market segment is teaming with device prototypes and some commercialized products as well.

2. Auditory Bionics

Cochlear implants, auditory brainstem implants and auditory midbrain implants are the three primary types of neuroprosthetic devices for people with severe hearing loss. Auditory bionics create an artificial interaction between the sound source and the brain — a microelectronic array is implanted into either cochlea or the brainstem in this case.

As a technology, auditory bionics is more advanced than vision bionics, with a broader market of innovation, more commercial products, and more global acceptance.

Cochlear Limited (Australia) dominates the market; Advanced Bionics (USA), a Sonova division; MED-EL (Austria); and several smaller, national companies.

Industrial Fact

A relatively new space in the bionics industry is robotic exoskeletons. These are electromechanical structures that patients wear to benefit from “motorized muscles.” These powered suits help patients who have limited or no muscle control walk, lift and generally be mobile.

3. Orthopedic Bionics

More than 1 billion people (about 15 per cent of the world's population) live with some form of physical disability, according to the World Health Organization, and about 190 million adults have a significant functional problem.

Orthopaedic bionics are designed to restore motor control to the physically challenged (not necessarily sensory functionality). Bionic limbs replace prosthetic limbs that have been standard fare for over 100 years.

Notwithstanding notable advances resulting in lighter devices and improved prototypes, prosthetic limbs have struggled to provide the required functional reconstruction that bionic devices are doing now.

A bionic limb is interfaced with the neuromuscular device used by a patient to control the limb — flex, bend and grasp — using the brain.

Ottobock (Duderstadt, Germany) is distinguished by the creation of the world's first completely microprocessor-controlled lower limb prosthesis. The market leader in lower limb bionics is now focusing on the production of ultra-light bionic limbs, that can function without an external source of energy.

Innovation is always a big-ticket item and advanced prosthetics are out of the reach of most people and healthcare systems. The global challenge which lies with the industries dealing with bionics is to make the technology available to everyone who needs it, at affordable prices.